Brewing coffee shouldn't be too difficult. While there are a myriad of ways to do it, a focus on four main variables will generally ensure a positive result.
Start with coffee that has been roasted recently and ground just prior to being brewed. Most beans reach their peak potential 3-10 days after roasting. Ground coffee begins to stale within 30 minutes.
A quality grinder is one of the best investments you can make in the search of a better cup. Burr style grinders are great for achieving consistency and improved extraction. But even a blade-type whirler used to slice up whole bean coffee will produce better results than brewing with the pre-ground stuff.
A cup of brewed coffee is about 98.6% water, so the quality of the water is pretty important. Clean, filtered water is good. If it tastes pretty tasteless, it will work for brewing coffee.
And it's gotta be hot, but not too hot. Water just off the boil works for most methods. Shoot for a starting temperature near 195-205˚F (90-96˚C).
The ratio of coffee to water is important in determining the brew strength. While some brew methods benefit from slightly higher or lower ratios, a good starting point is somewhere near 6 parts coffee to 100 parts water by weight. This works out to about 2 rounded tablespoons per 8 ounce cup (or 60 g coffee per liter of water).
A good gram scale is a wise investment. Coffees have varying densities, so measuring by volume can be tricky. Weighing both your coffee and water ensures accuracy and repeatability. Remember that 1 gram of water equals 1 mL.
Time is the final variable in a brew recipe. Infusion time is easily controlled with some brewing instruments such as the French press or AeroPress. For other methods, such as pour-over, the brew time is the result of technique and can be controlled by adjusting the other variables.
It is a good idea to monitor how long the water is in contact with the coffee so the recipe can be repeated or adjusted as needed. Use a timer.
Does your current brewing method create a cup of coffee you truly enjoy? Mark it down and repeat it. Does it taste a bit off? Adjust it.
An under-extracted brew might taste sour. Grind finer or brew longer. An over-extracted brew might taste bitter. Grind courser or brew shorter.
Trust your taste. Keep trying different recipes. Find the one that works best for you. Then try something new. It’s all part of the fun.
Still have questions? Contact us. We love talking brew methodology.